The French Minister of the Armed Forces launched on June 10 the future ocean patrol vessels known as PO or Patrouilleurs Océanique program.
Ten new generation OPVs will replace the A69 type (D’Estienne d’Orves-class) PHM (formerly Aviso / light frigates and then reclassified as patrol vessels) based in Brest and Toulon and the PSP patrol boats based in Cherbourg.
Part of the current military planning law (LPM 2019 – 2025), this future procurement will see the first deliveries starting from 2025.
In a context marked by the increase in maritime traffic and the toughening of threats at sea, patrol boats fulfill a very broad spectrum of missions: support for deterrence, presence in areas of sovereignty and interest, evacuation, protection, escort and intervention in the framework of State action at sea.
French Ministry of Armed Forces
The Ministry of the Armed Forces added that: “this armaments program will make the best use of national skills in the fields of development, construction and naval equipment. The first deliveries are scheduled for 2025.“
Contacted by Naval News, French naval expert Thibault Lamidel said: This is in accordance with the declaration of the DGA (French Defense Procurement Agency) of March 5, 2020, announcing the drafting of a “contract”. According to Philippe Chapleau, a first design contract should soon be awarded to Naval Group. The actual construction, from 2022, will be opened to competition between several shipyards by the launch of a tender procedure which will most likely take place at the end of 2020. Consequently, the schedule and the target of the program are respected, which is already a lot in itself. Even if there is every reason to note that the military planning law provided for a first delivery in 2024 and that this announcement is for 2025: the slight slippage of a few months of the program is confirmed. Two main questions remain: This alleged budget of around 1000 million euros for 10 patrouilleurs océaniques (according to Philippe Chapleau) represents an overall cost almost five times higher than the program for 6 overseas patrol boats (224 million euros). As a result, the unit cost is close to a River class OPV (Royal Navy) and almost double that of the offshore patrol boat “Adroit” (sold to Argentina). This amounts to saying that the design contract will relate to a new platform and not the resumption of existing proposals, despite the scale models or artist impressions which surfaced since Euronaval 2018. Could this be an implicit confirmation that the PO Patrouilleurs Océaniques program includes the French participation in the European Patrol Corvette program with a distribution between 4 EPC from PESCO project (~3000-3500 t) and 6 OPV from a whole new design (~1500 t), as mentioned previously ? Another question is whether these OPVs will have the capacity to support and operate a helicopter, not just a VTOL drone. The alleged high overall program cost would imply a positive answer to both those questions.
The future OPVs should be slightly larger than the POM vessels that were recently ordered for France’s overseas territories. POM vessels will be 80 meters long and 11.8 meters wide, with a draft of 3.5 meters and a displacement of 1,350 tons. This would put the future OPV right in line with Kership’s OPV 87 designed (similar to l’Adroit OPV). Yet the allocated budget, rumored to be close to 1 Billion Euros for 10 hulls, seems quite high for this type of “simple” OPV design.